Democrats, pro-lifers spar over Planned Parenthood investigation

The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.
The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.

.- Following Democratic claims that a House panel investigating Planned Parenthood has found no wrongdoing, pro-life leaders have fired back that this assertion is unfounded.

“The panel minority is making some very strong assertions in the summary of their report, and in the conclusion of their report. But those assertions are nowhere backed up by any kind of quality evidence within the body of the report,” David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress stated to CNA.

On Monday, Democratic members of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a House panel charged with investigating the fetal tissue trade, released a 112-page report on the panel.

“Fifteen months and more than $1.5 million taxpayer dollars later, the American people deserve an accurate accounting of what the Select Panel has learned,” they stated.

Among other claims, they said that Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider at the center of the fetal tissue trade controversy, and their partnering tissue procurement companies, had not been found guilty of illegal profits in the transactions.

The Select Investigative Panel was created after a series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in the trade of fetal tissue from aborted babies. Planned Parenthood doctors were shown on camera discussing prices for body parts of aborted babies with actors posing as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company.

The group alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates were profiting from the sale of tissue of aborted babies. Federal law allows for “reasonable” compensation in the transfer of tissue of aborted babies, with the mother’s consent. The compensation is to cover operating and transfer costs, but must not be for “valuable consideration.”

Planned Parenthood’s transaction model involves “minimizing” their “cost while maximizing the fees and profits it can receive for high-quality body parts,” the Center for Medical Progress has alleged.

The group also claimed that tissue procurement companies were profiting from the transactions. For instance, they said, according to IRS documents the non-profit Advanced Bioscience Research netted $1-1.5 million per year in fetal tissue transactions. The company StemExpress “charges $595 per fetal tissue specimen and had a yearly revenue of $2.2 million in 2014,” CMP claimed.

Last October the Select Investigative Panel was created to “gather information” on abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies and their roles in the trade.

More funding for the panel was approved last week by the House.

“For most of us, it is nothing short of an outrage that Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics supplement their budgets by selling human fetal tissue from aborted babies,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chair, stated Dec. 1.

“The work of our Panel is specifically focused on protecting the integrity of research, scientific advancements, and voluntary organ donation in America,” she continued. “Evidence we have uncovered reveals that the unethical and potentially unlawful practices of some bad actors may be putting important research at risk.”

Democrats on Monday slammed the panel and its tactics, however, saying the panel had not “found wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.”

In particular, they said the panel’s work was adversely affecting the amount of fetal tissue procured for medical research that is “indispensable…in advancing our understanding and treatment of a staggering array of conditions” like Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and Zika fever.

A panel spokesman told CNA that “our Panel was tasked with investigating the facts and completing a report by the end of the 114th Congress, which we plan to release in the coming weeks. After a year of diligent work, we look forward to sharing our findings with the American people.”

When the bill funding the panel was being considered by the House, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) said on the House Floor last week that “since the panel’s investigation, we have uncovered alarming revelations,” and added that “because of this, there have been criminal and regulatory referrals” bringing about “numerous investigations around the nation.”

The panel referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to the Texas attorney general for a criminal investigation after it “learned that Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast violated both Texas Law and US Law when it sold baby body parts to the University of Texas.”

Also, the panel said it had “discovered that the University of New Mexico was violating their state’s Anatomical Gift Act by receiving tissue from a late-term abortion clinic,” and the matter had been “referred to the Attorney General of New Mexico.”

A “forensic accounting analysis” had found that StemExpress – the California-based tissue procurement company featured in the undercover videos that procured fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood clinics – had profited from the fetal tissue trade. The Department of Justice and the local district attorney are investigating the matter.

The panel also asked the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate their finding that “StemExpress and certain abortion clinics were violating the HIPAA privacy rights of vulnerable women for the sole purpose of increasing the harvesting of fetal tissue to make money.”

There are several other examples the panel has given of abortion clinics, tissue procurement companies, and other entities allegedly breaking state or federal law in the fetal tissue trade.

“The minority report claims that they have proven not only that Planned Parenthood didn’t profit, but they’ve proven that Planned Parenthood lost money off of the transfer of fetal tissue. You won’t find a single shred of evidence, no documents, no testimony, nothing in the entire report that backs up that conclusion,” Daleiden said.

Rather, they relied “a statement from someone who wasn’t even connected to Planned Parenthood from over a year ago” for that “assertion,” he added.

“The bottom line is that this is not an actual report from the panel minority, this is not an actual analysis of the evidence,” he said.

“This is a propaganda piece that’s meant to try and do some very desperate eleventh hour public relations on the part of Planned Parenthood before the really, really damning evidence that I think we can expect to see in the numerous criminal referrals that the panel majority has made to different law enforcement agencies, and of course the final end-of-the-year reports from the panel are revealed for all the world to see.”

Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph. D., director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, has also written about the serious ethical and moral concerns with fetal tissue procurement from aborted babies, in a 2015 column “Consenting to the Unconscionable.”

The use of human tissue in medical research can be morally acceptable in certain circumstances, he said, but may never be procured from an aborted baby, even with good intentions like using the tissue for medical research.

“Sometimes these tissues and organs can be obtained after routine surgeries like gall bladder removal from adults or foreskin removal during the circumcision of newborns,” he noted, and “the use of such tissues and organs can be morally acceptable if the patient (or the parents of the newborn) provide informed consent.”

Also, in cases of “a natural miscarriage,” he said, “the use of cells and tissues from fetuses can also be morally acceptable” when the consent to do so is given by the parent of the dead baby.

However, using fetal tissue of aborted babies “raises significant moral concerns,” he added.

Although the law allows for fetal tissue procurement from aborted babies done with the consent of the mother, this “consent” is essentially “void,” Fr. Tad explained, “because she [the mother] would have already categorically demonstrated that she does not have the best interests of her child in mind, having arranged for the taking of that child’s life.”

And the use of remains of aborted babies for research is “unconscionable,” he added, because “in the absence of proper informed consent, taking organs or tissues from the corpse would represent a further violation of the integrity of the child’s body and constitute a failure to respect the remains of the dead.”

“Thus, the tissues and organs of the directly aborted child should not be utilized for research, transplantation or the development of therapies, but instead should be given a proper and respectful burial,” he added.

Democrats on the panel also claimed that Planned Parenthood clinics “lose money” in fetal tissue transactions. Planned Parenthood has claimed that any compensation incurred from the transactions covers operating, storage, and transfer costs from giving the tissue to harvesters, who then sell it to researchers.

However, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson testified before the Texas Senate Health and Human Services committee last year that in her experience with Planned Parenthood, her clinic profited from such transactions.

According to her former clinic’s studies, they “generally” received a compensation of $200 per baby that they sent to tissue procurement companies, Johnson said.

“I can assure you that there is no additional charge for collection, preservation, or storage of fetal tissue. The only additional expense would be shipping, and that’s between five to ten dollars per specimen. Not $200. That is sheer profit for Planned Parenthood.”

Tags: Abortion, Bioethics, Center for Medical Progress, Fetal tissue